Forget everything you think you know. You don’t.
You think he accused McNabb of getting tired/throwing up in the Super Bowl. He did not. That was Hank Fraley and Freddie Mitchell.
You think he said the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre at quarterback than McNabb. Not quite.
First of all, Michael Irvin was the one who came up with the assessment in question while babbling on ESPN.
But secondly, and more importantly, when Owens said that Irvin’s comment was “a good assessment,” he was responding in a context that completely changes the meaning of what he said.
The very question before, when interviewer Graham Bensinger asked him why he thought the Eagles had a disappointing 4-3 record, Owens said that McNabb’s injury (sports hernia he suffered in week 1) was a big part of that, and that if McNabb were healthy, the Eagles would have a better record. Bensinger’s question about Irvin’s comments about Favre as the Eagles quarterback were a follow up to what Owens had just said, and Owens, still thinking in terms of the Eagles struggling because of McNabb’s injury, answered by agreeing that Favre at quarterback would also have the Eagles in a better situation. In other words, what Owens was attempting to express was that the Eagles would be better with a healthy McNabb and they would also be better with a healthy Favre. He did not intend for his response to be a criticism of McNabb.
Watch for yourself, starting at 8:00 in Part 2 and continuing into Part 3:
But the media made everyone think otherwise, including McNabb himself, which is what led to the Eagles’ demand that Owens apologize to him. Owens refused, and his Eagles career was over.
Here’s how and why it all went down.
Coming from San Francisco in a highly publicized trade, Owens brought with him a media-created reputation for conflict with his quarterback; that quarterback being Jeff Garcia. If you read my post The Myth of Terrell Owens Calling Jeff Garcia Gay In Playboy, you now understand how the media created that situation and then revised history to further bolster the narrative.
During the 2004 off-season, Owens publicly expressed his enthusiasm for playing with McNabb, who was also a high profile player, and ESPN and co.’s wet dream was a reality.
Their mission: Use the same tactics they used when Owens was in San Francisco to create real conflict with McNabb.
Step 1: Ask one or both inflammatory questions and then completely misrepresent the answer to make it look like one just criticized the other.
Step 2: One or both of them fall for the false headline.
Step 3: Conflict
Step 5: $$$$.
But in 2004, there was one slight problem. The Eagles just kept winning. Owens was on a tear.
And it’s hard to ask an inflammatory question when things are going well for those being questioned.
It wasn’t until the Eagles lost their first game against the Steelers that the media finally had a scenario in which they could go to work. And what do you know…that’s exactly what they did.
One of the 47 “T.O. Cams” caught Owens following McNabb around on the sidelines and yelling something at him. While football players yell on the sidelines every single week, this was an opportunity to do what the media does any time one of their “villains” engages in normal football etiquette: feign ignorance and pretend football is a country club.
It was a desperation move, but it was all they had. Sadly for them, the Eagles revealed that Owens was merely shouting words of encouragement to McNabb. False alarm.
And unfortunately for the media, the Eagles did not lose another game the rest of that regular season before Owens broke his leg.
He returned to play in the Super Bowl, and while the Eagles lost, he posted 9 catches for 122 yards and the winning story seemed to be the “hero” portrayal.
But fortune soon struck when Owens’s teammates, Hank Fraley and Freddie Mitchell, revealed on national television that McNabb was tired on the Eagles’ last drive of the game, and may have even vomited.
ESPN, masters of the sensationalism, ran this story into the ground.
And then Len Pasquarelli sat down with Owens to discuss his “heroic” performance in the Super Bowl.
This was when they got the perfect comment to take out of context. Owens was addressing the criticism he had received from some for playing in the game and talked about how hard he worked to make sure his physical conditioning was good enough before noting the irony of ESPN’s stories being about McNabb being the one who got tired, saying, “I wasn’t the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl.” Owens never said McNabb’s name, but people understood it to be a reference to the story, as first broken by Fraley and Mitchell.
Owens’s comment was meant as a shot at the media, not McNabb. All these people were saying before the game that he was selfish for trying to play, questioning his physical conditioning…and then it turns out that the one they ended up reporting on getting tired was the other star player, who was healthy.
The problem for Owens was this quote was only shown in text, out of context. It was a print interview with no cameras around. Perfect. Now Sportscenter’s anchors can read the quote in an insulting tone and McNabb can hear about it and be pissed off.
Breaking news…here’s a quote from Terrell Owens…”IIIIIIIiiiii wasn’t the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl…(sideways glance).”
And it worked. People assumed Owens meant his comment as an insult, not realizing he was merely pointing out how surprising it was that after all the concern over how Owens would recover from his injury and how many snaps he could play without getting tired, their huge story on a player on the Eagles getting tired in the Super Bowl was not about him.
And as it turns out, Owens does not consider getting tired in a football game to necessarily be anything to be ashamed of. Football players in general don’t. It happens to everyone at some point. That’s why Fraley and Mitchell mentioned it on national television; they were actually praising McNabb’s effort in the game, underscoring that he left everything he had on the field.
When Owens heard the reaction to this, he denied that he was taking a shot at McNabb, and he has never relented from that position. But nobody ever actually listens to him. It’s never about what he says, it’s only about what he says that they can make into something else and refuse to acknowledge any clarifications.
McNabb carried resentment from thinking Owens took a shot at him into the 2005 season, where he would be further enraged when he heard the media’s false interpretation of Owens’s infamous answer in the Bensinger interview.
Since the two of them merely had a business relationship at that point, and no longer a friendship, Owens and McNabb were not willing to talk to each other about what had happened. Combine that with Owens’s contract dispute and it was a recipe for the end.
As upset as Owens was over the dissolution of their friendship in late 2004 after McNabb told him to “shut the fuck up” in the huddle and blew him off after the game, only to call Owens a few days later and make it clear from his tone that from then on, their relationship would be strictly professional, he was not looking to insult McNabb in the media. The media wanted him to do this, and as it turns out, that was all it took for them to convince people that he did.